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Girl Scout Troop 8974
(Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
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Poison Ivy Fact Sheet

Poison ivy is probably the most common shrub associated with Iowa’s woodlands. It is found throughout the state. It is safe to say that poison ivy is well known but not a very understood shrub. The plant is often found as three more or less distinct forms: a small under

-story plant, a free standing shrub, up to 6-8 feet tall, and as a vine, occasionally 2-4 inched in diameter. The leaves are pinnately compound with three leaflets-the middle leaflet on a stalk and the others are mostly without stalks. The leaves are glossy green in the summer, turning bright red in autumn. The vines form hairy tendrils as they grow up a tree. As the vine grows, it produces branches, which are at a noticeable right angle to the main stem of the vine. Winter buds are stalked, brownish-yellow in color, and bout ¼ inch long. The fruit is a white to yellow drupe, about 3/16 of an inch in diameter. It reproduces from root sprouts, from rhizomes or underground stems, from climbing vines, and from the seeds. Poison ivy is a very important plant for wildlife. Many birds utilize the persistent fruit during the winter and browsers, such as rabbit and deer will utilize the twigs during the winter months. Poison ivy is famous or infamous for its pale yellow oil, called urushiol. This oil is present in all parts of the plantleaves, stem, roots, and fruit. In addition, urushiol is very persistent in the environment and may last for many years before breaking down. In fact, if poison ivy plant parts are burned, the urushiol is carried in the particles of soot, smoke and dust. As the urushiol is absorbed through the skin, the metabolites bind with the skin proteins and the immune system attacks these foreign structures resulting in the allergic reaction of itching, inflammation and blistering of the skin. These symptoms may appear in 2-14 days after exposure. What determines how soon a person reacts after exposure is how sensitive he or she is to the plant and the number of previous times the person has been exposed to it.

The best way to avoid getting “poison ivy” is to not get urushiol on your skin. Know what the plant looks like and avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, wear protective clothing. Wash anything that may have come in contact with the plant before it touches your skin, including your dog. Never burn poison ivy because of possible contamination of the mucus membranes, which is extremely serious. There are also barrier creams that are commercially available. If you think you’ve been exposed, wash the area as soon as possible, preferably within an hour after exposure, with lots of cool running water. A lake or a river works well. Don’t use soap unless it contains no oils (oil will cause the urushiol to spread).

It is important to note that poison ivy does not all look alike. Be cautious of any plants fitting the general description and always take precautions to avoid being exposed to the plant.

Poison Ivy in the Summer                                                                 Poison Ivy in the Spring

Poison Ivy in the Fall                                             Climbing Poison Ivy

Creeping Poison Ivy                                                         Poison Ivy on the beach

Types of Campfires


This fire gives you a quick, hot fire for boiling in pots and frying in pans. Build your foundation fire to resemble an Indian teepee. (Stand the tinder up in teepee fashion. Next stand pieces of kindling on end around the tinder – small ones first, then larger ones.) Pieces should overlap somewhat, and be touching. Once the kindling is burning good, begin adding fuel progressively using smaller to larger logs. Keep your fuel building tall, not widespread.



Produces coals or a long-burning fire. It burns steadily, produces good coals, and does not need much feeding. Start with the Basic A fire and add wood in a criss-cross formation. Put thick sticks at bottom and smaller ones across the top. In this way, the wood will burn and fall, making a bed of coals. A log cabin is built by the same process, only open in the center. These fires are good for ceremonial or camp fires.


When lots of coals are needed, arrange your firebricks to resemble a keyhole. Build your fire in a semi-circle and keep feeding it so flames are present. Rake coals into the lower part to cook on.

Never even light your match without water nearby to put out a fire! And never leave a fire unattended!

When asking girls to gather wood, be specific about what sized and quantity you want them to gather.

Before getting started, tie longhair back and remove any clothing made of nylon. It all can catch fire so quickly!

Only those tending or building the fire should be around the fire ring.

Be sure not to pass things OVER the fire.

Be sure to use the three sizes of wood.

Tinder fires flame only shortly and are good for cooking nothing.

Make your fire only the size you need it to cook your meal.

Rotten wood, leaves, grass weeds and paper make lousy fire starters and don’t burn long enough to cook anything.

Never use liquid fire starters.

Check the area for overhanging branches, which may catch fire.

On a windy day build a fire only where it can be sheltered from spreading.

Remember that fires burn UP and fires need AIR. For example, a match to light a fire should be placed beneath the tinder or fire starter then to keep it going wood is places gently onto the flames pointing upward. Once a flame begins it will go out if smothered from air. It may be necessary to fan a fire to get it to ignite larger kindling or fuel.

Brainstorm some safety ideas with your girls before getting started. Ask them about how to act and work around the fire.

Always leave things nicer than when you found them!